One of the top locations in the country for young people to study traditional jazz and New Orleans-inspired music, the school has recorded albums, toured the country and racked up several awards in the process.
With funding for the arts in decline, it’s always a struggle to keep such programs going. But such an opportunity exists May 19 when the school hosts the second annual Jazz on the Green fundraiser.
The outdoor event kicks off at noon, with performances taking place on the quad. On hand will be all of the school’s music groups: the Jazz Ensemble, the Concert Jazz Band and the Preservationists, with a closing set by the Euphoria Brass Band doing a tribute to New Orleans. The latter includes saxophonist and MBHS music director JP Balmat.
Open to all ages, the day also includes crafts, face painting and a bake sale, with more substantial food available from Costa Brava and World Curry.
Jazz on the Green tops a school year that has included concerts from the various groups, as well as a trip to New Orleans and a new CD, “New Orleans Preserves” by the Preservationists. The event will double as a CD-release show for the album — the sixth such recording for the school band — though this will be the first under its current name.
Featuring a mix of standards and originals penned by Balmat and student Maile Saili, Balmat said he considers the album to be a “melting pot” of ideas and jazz influences.
“What we tried to with this album is pull in as many of the different (sides) of jazz as we could into one disc,” Balmat said.
Money raised at Jazz on the Green will go directly to the music department, primarily to help acquire musical instruments for budding musicians.
“Since the school district doesn’t provide instruments for students and our program is growing every year, we need to do everything we can to help,” Balmat said. “We need to be able to meet those demands.
Currently, the music program has about 80 students, with a need for everything from trombones to guitars. For example, a decent, concert-quality trumpet can run in excess of $2,000 — a cost that can be out of reach of most families.
“You name it, we’re going to need additional supplies,” Balmat said.
He points out that the music program at Pacific Beach Elementary is blossoming, so there is a larger influx of musicians to MBHS each year. While funding for the program is the focus of the event, Balmat said Jazz on the Green is an opportunity to reach a wider audience.
“More than anything, I think it’s about building the reputation of the school,” Balmat said. “My goal is still to have the best high school jazz program in the state. The nice thing about this event is that it brings people to us. It shows people the entire music program, not just our top group. Of course, the funds are important because we’re not really funded by the school district.
“My position is [funded] and we get help here and there, but when you’re talking about the cost of an instrument being up to $5,000, we have to depend on the community to really help this program grow,” he said.
For Balmat, despite the hard work of organizing an event like Jazz on the Green on top of an already hectic schedule as music director, it’s all worth it to see his students make music.
“My favorite thing is just seeing it all come together at the very end,” he said. “It can get a little stressful up to the last few days of rehearsal, so when they’re actually performing for the community, that is the most rewarding thing. For a teacher to see the final product like that is simply wonderful.”
• Jazz on the Green takes place beginning at noon on Saturday, May 19 at Mission Bay High School, 2475 Grand Ave. All ages. $10 for adults. $5 for students and children. www.missionbaymusic.com